Everyone knows how to wash their face, right? It’s simple and you’ve been doing it since you were a kid.
If your skin is dry, oily, sensitive, red and irritated, or looking older than you’d like, it’s time to go back to basics.
And that starts with cleansing your face.
You really need to do it twice a day
When you wash you face in the morning, you’re clearing your skin from any products you used at night that weren’t completely absorbed.
You’re also washing away the dried saliva and tears that get on your face as you roll over or toss and turn in your sleep. There’s a lot of bacteria in tears and saliva. A little nasty, and really you don’t want that on your face all day. It can lead to problems like breakouts and irritation.
You want a clean slate for your day time products to work their best.
One of the primary rules of skincare is “always wash your face before bed”
And it’s true.
Night time is when your skin goes into repair mode.
Blood flow to the skin is increased when you sleep which nourishes your skin and removes cellular waste products. This gives it a healthy glow and keeps those dark under eye circles at bay. Collagen and elastin are produced during sleep which means fewer wrinkles and less sagging. Good sleeps also helps keep a fuller, more healthy head of hair.
Your skin can’t take care of these processes very well when your skin has makeup, dirt, or grime on it. Not removing these at night leads to inflammation and breakouts and makes your skin age faster.
Plus, you want a nice clean surface so your night time skin care products (aka the heavy hitters) do their best work.
Use lukewarm water
Hot water feels good and relaxing. But it strips your natural oils from your skin.
If you’re older than 35 or 40, this means hot water will make your skin dry or drier. This is the age that your skin naturally starts making less of its own moisturizing and protective oils, you don’t want to strip any more of them off.
Paradoxically, if your skin tends to be oily, hot water will also strip your skin of its oils. But then your skin will try to correct the problem by making even more oil. Washing with hot water will make your skin more oily in the end.
If your skin is sensitive or you have rosacea, you probably already know that hot water makes it worse.
Room temperature or lukewarm water is the best thing for your face.
Don’t scrub, be gentle
For the same reason, I don’t recommend scrubbing your skin or using a physical exfoliant (scrub product). Scrubbing, using a facial scrub or exfoliants with seeds, small beads or other rough ingredients can strip oils from your skin.
It can also disrupt your skin barrier. Your skin barrier is made of fats, water, sugar, minerals, and amino acids. This biological cocktail forms a nice, intact barrier on our skin that acts as a natural moisturizer while it keeps in water and keeps out germs, pollutants and other irritants.
Damage your skin barrier and you can say hello to irritated, red, dry, chapped, or cracked skin.
Be gentle when you’re washing your face. Use gentle circular strokes to apply the cleanser. No scrubbing with a wash cloth.
If you use make up wipes, you still need to cleanse your face
Make up wipes are good at removing makeup. The problem is that they’re formulated with a ton of preservatives to keep them from growing bacteria and fungus and be stable over time. They leave behind a residue that can be quite irritating and drying. It needs to be cleansed off.
Most cleansers (like RainshowerClean) are formulated to be able to remove your make up and grime without a lot of potentially irritating ingredients.
The pH of your cleanser is important
Bar soaps and many commercial cleansers and over the counter topical medications have a pH of 5.5 or higher. This means that they’re too alkaline for your skin’s barrier. This leads to dry skin and makes your skin more prone to infection.
Look for a cleanser with a pH of 4.5-5 (SunWindSnow’s Rainshower Clean is not only organic but its pH is 5, which is perfect). This helps keep your skin barrier and microbiome healthy.
At this point the chemists among you might be thinking “the pH of water is about 7 (neutral).”
You’re right, and if you use only water to wash your face, you’ll probably find that over time your face gets drier and more irritated. That’s because your skin barrier is slightly acidic and even neutral water is too alkaline.
Plus it won’t remove your makeup or dirt effectively. Of course, it’s fine for rinsing off the slightly acidic cleanser.
Pat dry, don’t rub hard (even if it feels good)
It’s all about your skin barrier. Rubbing it hard after you cleanse will damage it. Pat dry.
If you want gentle exfoliation, you can lightly rub with a clean washcloth or towel. But only once or twice a week. Do not over it.
To tone or not to tone
Back in the day when everyone used bar soap to wash their faces, toners helped bring skin back to a more normal pH. It became a part of a good skin care routine-cleanse, tone, moisturize.
Things have changed as our understanding of how skin works and skincare has become more science based.
If you’re using a cleanser with a pH of 4.5-5, you really don’t need a toner. To my mind, this eliminates the need for an extra step and an extra product that isn’t doing that much you in the long run.
That said, if you love your toner and it just wouldn’t feel right not using it, there’s no reason you can't.
Serum and moisturizer right away
Once your skin is clean and patted to damp dry, it’s best to apply your serum and/or moisturizer right away. This helps your products be absorbed better and also gives your skin a natural moisture boost.
Don’t wait until your skin is completely dry. After even a few minutes, your skin cells are more dehydrated and it’s harder for them to absorb the product.
We’ll talk more about serums and moisturizers over the next two weeks.
I’ve probably made it sound more complicated than it is. Here’s the summary:
- Wash your face twice a day-morning and night. Night is critical for good skin care.
- Use lukewarm water
- Use a pH balanced cleanser that won’t dry your skin
- Be gentle-no scrubbing
- Pat dry, no hard rubbing with your towel
- Apply serum or moisturizer right away.